If you thought your coffee, tea and tap water tasted or smelled a bit funny during the past week or so, you are not alone.
As temperatures rise throughout the Charleston area in late spring, algae thrives at the Bushy Park Reservoir in Berkeley County, the source for most of the Charleston Water System's supply. The result is a taste and smell that the water system described as musty or earthy, but harmless.
"I would describe it as being moldy, or with a hint of mildew," said Gunnar Vizbulis, a Mount Pleasant resident whose family and dog have been drinking bottled water left over from hurricane season since their tap water started tasting unpleasant in April.
Mount Pleasant Waterworks buys 5.5 million gallons of water from Charleston Water System every day, about half of Mount Pleasant's supply.
"From what I understand, they started carbon treatment, which should solve the problem," said Clay Duffie, general manager of Mount Pleasant Waterworks.
Activated carbon, similar to the material used in water-filtering pitchers, is added to Charleston Water System's supply each spring when the algae becomes a problem. The carbon was added Friday.
"We kind of wait until we get a few complaints because it's expensive to add the carbon," Charleston Water System public relations manager Jenny Hagan said.
Hagan said the water system received 12 calls since April 27. Duffie said Mount Pleasant Waterworks got four calls.
Vizbulis tasted his tap water at a reporter's request Tuesday evening and said the unpleasant taste was still there, but it was better than before.
"How do they know it's harmless?" he said.
The Charleston and Mount Pleasant water systems agree the algae is not a health issue, and Harvey Wilkins of the state's Office of Environmental Quality Control agreed in a Charleston system statement.
"It's an aesthetic issue, but people are understandably concerned when their water tastes different," Wilkins said. "We just want to assure the public that the water is safe to drink."